Braun

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Pablo Edronkin

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The first Brauns in Warsaw included a fortune-seeker.

"There is a famous story in which the Kaiser asks Bismarck, 'Can you prove the existence of God?' Bismarck replies, 'The Jews, your majesty. The Jews.'"[248].

Braun is the surname of my maternal grandfather, who was from Nowy Dwór Maz. near Warsaw. He knew my grandmother while they were kids at school, and they remained together until Hilary Braun passed away. As in the case of other names of the whole Geside, Braun appears lined to the more general group at earlier stages.

My mother Jolanta[1.50] and uncle Wojciek[1.49] survived the war in hiding at their paternal grandparents' home in Nowy Dwór under "half-true" identities, since nobody said that they came from a Jewish family. They were there, together with my great grandfather Kazimierz Braun[1.384] and my great grandmother Ursula Górecka[1.385], their aunt Lonia[1.386] and her daughter Elzbieta[1.387]. They were Christians, and for some time we believed that there were two Braun families in the region on account of that, for the other Brauns were Jewish.

Kazimierz Braun.
Kazimierz Braun, circa 1947[94.45].
Ursula Górecka
Ursula Górecka, circa 1932[94.46].


After my grandfather Hilary Braun was captured by the NKVD in Slonim and sent to the gulag, my grandmother Danusia Blat[1.388] escaped the town along with my uncle and mother and went first to Warsaw, where they saw my great grandmother and great grandfather - Hersz Józef and Hena for the last time, and then they went to Nowy Dwór, near the capital, presumably because it was safer there (see Hersz Josek Blat and Hena Skowronek). The family had properties there and the parents of my grandfather were living in the town as well (see How Wojciek's Stamp Collection Began).

Since my grandmother spoke fluent German, she melted well in the town and the Nazis didn't notice anything strange at first. But then, someone who was resented towards Danusia because the German officers treated her as "Frau Braun" and not on the level of "Polnisches scheisse" granted to average people went to the Nazis and told them that Frau Braun was Jewish in exchange for a bag of potatoes.

It was then a German officer who tipped my grandmother on her impending arrest by the Gestapo, and she had to flee for the forests around Kielce in a couple of hours. The kids stayed with Kazimierz, Ursula and Lonia. This happened in 1943. Apparently it is in that context that the picture seen below was taken, to be sent to my grandmother in Kielce after she left.

Wojciek, Elzbieta and Jolanta, 1943.
Wojciek, Elzbieta and Jolanta, 1943[94.43].
A memory of the war.
Dear mom: A memory of the war. 6/9/1943[94.44].


My uncle told me a couple of years ago that he saw how the Nowy Dwór ghetto was liquidated, and how the survivors were taken away mostly by members of the Nazi SA, while kicking, shouting, beating and shooting them. He said that he went into the remains of the ghetto the same day, and saw a lot of corpses, including babies who had their heads smashed against walls or were drowned into latrines. Rakhel Blat[1.162] and her husband Yiddel Rosenstein[1.161] perished in the Nowy Dwór ghetto around 1942. Rakhel was one of the sisters of my grandmother.

Later he was saved again by a German land owner named Bartel that lived nearby, when Wojciek was summoned by the "Arbeitsamt" that by had established its offices at Ul. Warszawska 2, which is the house that has been in the property of our family for nearly two centuries. The best buildings in town, made of bricks and stones instead of wood, were seized by the Nazis for their installations. Our house had more luck that one from the Montlak family, which were cousins: There the Gestapo established its local station as well as its torture chambers and execution devices. The Montlaks never wanted that house again after the war. Jolanta - my mother - a couple of times remembered how after the war ended, piles of corpses were taken from mass graves around the town, including the land plot of the Montlaks, and taken to the cemetery over Warszawska street in carts amidst an unbearable stench.

Herrn Bartel appealed on behalf of my uncle, who was 13 or 14 years old, telling the bureaucrats that he "absolutely" needed Wojciek at his farm, and hence, they could not take him to work elsewhere - probably in slave work military facility. He was the father of the top guy of the regional division of the Hitlerjugend. My uncle said that the man also provided them with food during a time in which there was nothing to eat in the town. Both he and the officer that warned my grandmother to live the town at once risked their lives doing what they did.

Again, according to my uncle, during the last half of 1944 they had a platoon of Waffen SS soldiers living at the same house. They were in charge of two half-track vehicles equipped with flame throwers, and seemingly every day they went to Warsaw in order to fight during the uprising and later, to demolish the city. It doesn't take a Bayesian net to realize that they knew by then that the war was lost for Germany and thus were pretty polite, unlike their colleagues in Warsaw that, hand in hand with Dirlewanger, were butchering Poles by the thousands each day.

Lonia Braun.
Lonia Braun, circa 1950[94.47].
First Lieutenant Hilary Braun
Hilary Braun as First Lieut. in Egypt, 1942[94.48].


Little they knew that not only they were living with a couple of Jews and the family of Irek Braun[1.383], a man that died fighting against them in Warsaw, while his brother - my grandfather, Hilary A. Braun[1.48] - was a Lieutenant of the Polish Army at the time busy in combat at Monte Cassino, against them as well, the husband of Hilary's sister, Jadwiga[1.388] was a Commodore of the Navy, and there was also a cousin, Jerzy Braun, M.D.[1.388] who was an Army Captain as well.

My uncle told me how the members of the platoon cleaned the machines every day, how the Stukas from Modlin and Okecie flew in circles on top of the nearby Kempinos forest before attacking the city, and how he and my mother played on top of the German vehicles and collected still-hot pieces of shrapnel.

A relative of my grandfather's family, Dwojra Filipowicz, had researched after the war about the Braun family; she found out that two Brauns reached Warsaw from Germany during the XVIII century. One was a fortune seeker - and his family became pretty wealthy -, a man trying to make money for himself. The other Brauns followed two decades later and were people attracted by the opportunities that the country offered back then.

Jadwiga Braun, her husband and their son with some friends.
Jadwiga Braun, her husband and son (left) before the war[94.49].
Danusia Blat and her son Wojciek in Slonim.
Danusia Blat and her son Wojciek in their home at Slonim, cicra 1934 [94.50].


This was true, but that we believed that they were unrelated, we found out that actually they belonged to the same Braun family. Indeed, not only were these two "different" Braun families present at Warsaw at the same time, but they were both living in Nowy Dwór - which was far smaller - as well. But then, we also found that they were related to the same families: Braun appears related, for example, to Schoenberg in both Warsaw and Nowy Dwór. The Brauns and Schoenbergs from Nowy Dwór are us, and the Schoenbergs from Warsaw are us as well, since there was only one Schoenberg family, and also, the Warsaw and Nowy Dwór Brauns were related to one another too.

Some of the family names related directly by marriage to the Braun family in Poland[1][228] are:

A: Abeles, Abelman, Abraham, Abramovich, Adler, Ain, Aldabe, Alexander, Algay, Alterlejb, Alter - Rotenberg, Apfel, Artman, Asarver, Auerbach, Austerlitz.

B: Bacharach, Baldinger, Balsam, Bartok, Bauer, Benedeg, Betz, Bernhardt, Berger, Bergrün, Berland, Berlin, Berman, Bischoffsheimer, Blank, Blat, Blau, Blaufuchs, Blaustein, Boas, Bojman, Boniówki, Borenstein, Borgida, Buchsbaum, Bullard, Brandt, Breslauer, Broch, Bruckner, Brylant.

C: Cahn, Chandler, Charap, Charen, Collier, Cukier, Cummins, Cyryng, Czaczkes, Czape, Czarny, Czosnek.

D: Daly, David, de Levie, Dessauer, Deutsch, Dlott, Dohan, Doktorowicz, Doman, Dornhardt, Dratwa, Dreyfuss, Dyamant.

E: Ebner, Eckstein, Eger - Gans, Edronkin, Eibeschutz, Eichengrün, Engel, Englander, Epstein, Erlich.

F: Falinower, Fejchtfeld, Fernberger, Feundel, Finkelstein, Fiszman, Fleischmann, Fliederbaum, Fraenkel, Frankfurter, Frajdenreich, Frankenstein, Frankfurter, Freimark, Freundlich, Friedlaender, Friedman, Frocht, Fromberg, Fruchtgarten, Fuks, Fulop, Furman.

G: Gadiel, Gajman, Gecelowicz, Gelbart, Glicksberg, Goldberg, Goldfarb, Goldman, Goldschmidt, Goldstein, Goliger, Górecki, Gottlieb, Gradus, Graf, Greenspan, Grinberg, Groner, Grunberg, Grünblat, Grynwasser, Guggenheim, Horowitz, Guterman, Gutman, Gutmacher.

H: Haas, Hagenow, Halle, Halpern, Halpert, Hanauer, Hay, Hecht, Heller, Hermansztat, Hermelin, Hess, Heuselin, Hirsch, Hollander, Holz, Horowitz, Hyatt.

I: Israel, Itzig, Izkorow.

J: Jacobsthal, Jakobi, Januar, Jaroslawski, Jazwinska, Jonas, Jordan, Jungman, Just.

K: Kachur, Kaldan, Kalerstajn, Kallös, Kalman, Kant, Kaplan, Katz, Keller, Kelers, Kempinski, Kirsch, Kirschblum, Klein, Klimantowski, Knaster, Krassin, Kon, Kosower, Koralek, Kornfeld, Kowalski, Kozak, Kraemer, Krakauer, Krancenblum, Kriegsman, Kronenberg, Krzak, Kunstlinger, Kuznitski.

L: Laks, Lancman, Landau, Landsberg, Laski, Laufer, Lawendel, Lazar, Lazarus, Leiter, Lewin, Lewis, Lewkowicz, Lewcowicz, Lewinsohn, Libert, Lichtenfeld, Lichtenstein, Lilienstern, Lindenberg, Lipowski, Lipsker, Lipstein, Lissauer, Littauer, London, Lorch, Lovinger, Löwenthal, Luftig.

M: Maag, Mahler, Maierson, Manasse, Mandel, Mandula, Markel, Marlib, Markovics, Markus, Marx, May, Meisels, Merkier, Milgrom, Milstein, Mlynarz, Mond, Morse, Moses, Motel, Morgenstern, Mueller.

N: Nachmanowicz, Nagy, Nathan, Nefeles, Neumark, Neustadt, Niniewski, Nogg, Nussbaum.

O: Obermeier, Olear, Olms, Opel, Oppenheim, Orenstein, Ostrowski, Ottensoser.

P: Pelta, Perl, Pfeffer, Philipp, Pinkus, Podgórecki, Polacz, Politzer, Pomerancblum, Popper, Porges, Pribram, Proch, Prowizor, Pudke, Pulvermacher.

R: Rajchman, Rafael, Rapaport, Rapf, Rapp, Raphaeli, Rashti, Rechthand, Redlich, Reichenbach, Reichert, Reiser, Rogosinski, Romer, Rosenbaum, Rosenberg, Rosenfeld, Rosenstein, Rosenthal, Roth, Rothenbach, Rothschild, Rotkin, Rotman, Rotstein, Rozencwajg, Rosgar, Rozen, Rubens, Ruina.

S: Sadolin, Salomon, Sass, Schaeffer, Schiff, Schiffer, Schilling, Schlachter, Schlessinger, Schochet, Schoenberg, Schoenfeld, Schor, Schreiber, Schwab, Schwadron, Schweizer, Selling, Shapiro, Siegel, Silberman, Singel, Singer, Skwiras, Slavin, Sobel, Sokal, Soloveitchik, Sommer, Sonnenberg, Speiser, Sperling, Spielman, Spier, Stanton, Stasiak, Steiner, Steinfeld, Stern, Sternberg, Stotzer, Strauss, Strumpfman, Swiatlo, Szabo, Szajer, Szljank, Sztajnsapir, Sztajnsznejder, Sztejman, Szleuges, Szulmicz.

T: Tarnowski, Taub, Tauber, Tenenbaum, Toeplitz, Torkeltab, Trepman, Tugendreich, Tzina.

U: Ullman, Unger.

V: Veis.

W: Wachsmann, Wagner, Waks, Waldenberg, Wandstein, Warszawiak, Wasser, Wasserman, Wasservogel, Weil, Weintraub, Wertheim, Weinberg, Weiss, Weissmann, Weyland, Wildman, Windelbaum, Winsberg, Woldenberg, Wolkoff.

Z: Zafir, Zajdman, Zalcman, Zander, Zelechower, Zilberberg, Zimmermann, Zysman.

There were differences between the Warsaw and Nowy Dwór Brauns: Those from the larger city had some wealth, while those from Nowy Dwór were mostly merchants and enjoyed only plain-vanilla middle-class living standards - for that particular era, that is. Some were Levitic Jews, and some were Christians, and there had been some debate before my grandmother married my grandfather in her family as of the convenience of such a contract: The problem was not that Hilary was a Christian, but that his family wasn't as wealthy as that of my grandmother Danusia Blat[1.36]. In fact, marriages with Christians were not seen as problem: Józef Mosze Skowronek (See Józef Skowronek,) my great grand uncle, was married to a Christian, he ostensibly converted also to Christianity, and this is also why his wife and two daughters survived the war hiding in a way very similar a what was done in Nowy Dwór.

According to my grandmother, Hena[1.14], her mother and sister of Józef, told her repeatedly that if she married my grandfather she would "...have to wash clothes!...", while her sisters tried to convince her of going off with "the Count" (see Skowronek the Horse and Skowronek the Bank) The problem wasn't religion; it was business.

Like most Jews in Poland and especially in the cities, the Warsaw Braun family branch did not fare well during the conflict and most did not survive the war. Just one of them, who was a military MD in the Anders Army eventually settled in the UK and his descendants in Australia.

For a Jew or someone else targeted by the Nazis during WWII in Poland it was virtually impossible to survive the full length of the conflict hiding within large urban concentrations. Sooner or later, some policeman, SS guard or soldier would run into the path of the person hiding, or perhaps someone would even sell the survivor to the Nazi authorities. Smaller, more discrete towns out of the way of the occupants, or cottages in rural areas offered much better chances. Getting out of at least large urban areas is something that should be taken into account as a survival rule or technique just in about every possible scenario. Cities are targets for attacks, there are political motivations to make shows of force there - more or less symbolic acts - and of course, there are more individuals among whom the chances that someone might act as a whistle blower are higher.

So, unfortunately the Brauns from Warsaw suffered the fate of most urban Jews. Those that survived either were away or had papers to "prove" that they were not Jews. Direct descendants of the Warsaw Braun knew for quite long very little of this story, as survivors did not speak.

After the war Jadwiga's husband, as well as my great aunt Alicia Maria Skowronek[1.38] and his husband became three of about 382 former combatants among tens of thousands in the Anders Army that returned to Poland, and then, despite all the frowning about her marriage, my grandmother got the best deal, for she and my grandfather Hilary proved to have some of the greatest survival instinct and abilities of the clan. After all, they survived the war while almost everyone else went into oblivion.


Auth: Nathan Blat?
My great uncle Nathan Blat and the Nowy Dwór house, circa 1950.



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